Mission Monday

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By Kevin Schutte

I had the privilege of attending a traditional Christian Reformed Church in my youth. Some of my earliest memories of our time as a family at church were the special missionary Sundays. In the church basement surrounded by a spread of ham, buns and an unknown colorful jello salad, the missionary would present a slide show of lands and people that were much different than me  I found myself captivated by the stories from the far away mission field. Hearing of people becoming Christians, or seeing pictures of children my age learning the same Sunday school stories I had learned were as thrilling as the stories of poverty and disease were heartbreaking. Even as a young boy I admired, respected and was attracted to what I perceived to be the adventure of being a missionary, of being a person who lived the Christian life in a way that was different “over there” than it was in my neighborhood or church. Mission was something that was separate from the life of the local church and was an exciting venture that happened in other places.

This understanding of missions remained unchallenged for most of my adult life. As I observe and interact with many Christian friends in a variety of context, I don’t think their understanding of mission has developed much from what they understood as a kid from those mission Sunday services. Again, I am thankful for those experiences as a kid and the impact those mission Sunday’s had on my spiritual formation! The problem with mission Sunday’s is the impression, intended or not, that mission was not local, was not for everyone, was something you gave your money to or, if you were really adventurous, went on a mission trip to visit for a short period. I believe understanding mission this way thwarts our ability to embrace the missionary calling that we all have whether we live in plains of an African country or in the plains of Kansas, whether your city is Nairobi or Kansas City, whether your calling is to Jerusalem or to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) We are called to be God’s missionaries as we enter into the Kingdom of the great missionary King!

When we repent and enter into the Kingdom we are confronted with the claims of Christ; confronted with the life of Christ and the heart and scope of the Gospel he preached; a Gospel which reconciles all things, which restores all things, which makes things new (2 Cor. 5:18-21). We understand that in Him there is a new birth, a completely different way of living (John 3), that we are empowered to live in this new life because of the Spirit of God which now lives in us (Rom 8), that we belong to a new family, a new brotherhood, a church (Eph. 4), and our sent on a mission to live as ambassadors for our King, as citizens in his new Kingdom, preaching I both word and deed the Kingdom and Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20, Acts 28:31). Having been touched by God to repent and enter into his Kingdom, we begin to live a new way, see things differently, and develop values which are contrary to culture and to the way we understood the world before. Our new life and values intersect with those who have not entered this new Kingdom of God. We become a city on the hill whose bright light shines (Mat. 5:14). We become missionaries sent to proclaim the Gospel in a world that has sinned and is deserving of judgment, but we are also sent to a world in which all of humanity, indeed all of creation, suffer from the consequences of sin. These consequences include all which stands against shalom, such as poverty, sickness, systematic oppression, injustices, and racism. We are to engage both those who sin and those who are sinned against in the missionary Kings plan of redemption.

The mission of the gospel that we present and preach is not limited in direction to a place “over there” or in a world far away, but is also for our own backyard. This is why the vocal proclamation of the gospel is accompanied by the incarnation of the one who is preaching and presenting the Gospel with both words and a life lived out. I enjoy Eugene Peterson’s translation in the message of the incarnation of Jesus when he says “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14).   Could I be a missionary in my own neighborhood or my own city? I never would have guessed it was possible as a young child watching a great slide show. When we understand missions as something that happens outside of our town, city or country, if we understand it as only international we falsely segment a calling that was given to us all. You don’t have to bring a slide projector, but I would love to celebrate Mission Monday with you and hear the stories of your mission in your neighborhood. I will even bring some ham on bun.

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Allen Likkel from CRHM.
Thanks Kevin for focusing the perspective on Christ's mission in the world on the calling each of us have to participate in that mission where we are. I do give thanks for sensing a significant shift in the last two decades in the understanding of many CRCNA members, congregations, and leaders to incarnational mission in their own "hoods." I also praise God for our international and domestic missionary pastors - such as yourself - who are leading the way in this mission.

Perhaps the last shift in understanding to fully occur in the CRCNA is the notion that our denominational endorsed missionaries go to international "hoods" rather than North American. I praise God Kevin that you are a "missionary."

Thanks, Kevin, for this critical insight. I've been increasingly struck in recent years by the lack of support, resources and encouragement provided by churches (not just CRC) with regard to practical Christian living in the workplace. As Reformed Christians we purport to have a holistic understanding of God's Kingdom as "already now but not yet"; we're big Abraham Kuyper fans; we understand God's sovereign redemptive grace to extend throughout His Creation, and yet we hardly talk at all about where most of our church members spend most of their waking hours - in their places of work.

I'm spending some time exploring this through Bible study, reading, and practical application in my own place of work (I'm called by God to be COO of a Mortgage Lender in San Francisco - a pretty good "rubber meets the road" calling!) In case anyone reading this is interested, I've just started a blog which will document some of the discoveries, challenges and joys of my flawed, fallible but Spirit-empowered attempts to live as one made in God's image in the middle of the financial and real estate worlds. It's at http://faithatworkplace.blogspot.com/. I would also be interested in seeing dialogue on The Network about how churches can help people in the workplace. I'll start another topic for that ...

Kevin, Great stuff man! Here is my "Missions Monday" story you asked for at the end of your article. Sorry, no ham bun for you. "...this is when you receive your first Holy Communion. The reason I know the date so well is that I received a bible from my grandmother. The date is printed on the cover. This bible is 44 years old and looks brand new, like it just came off of the book store shelf. God has been looking for me but I have not been seeking him." "I will never forget the first time I took communion at Crossroads. It was the first time in 30 years. We did not participate the first time we were exposed, though I yearned to. When we finally did I truly felt the touch of Jesus." Excerpts from one of our newest members at Crossroads. He and his wife are starting a community garden on our property this spring. Fun stuff!